BHP to act on elevated Pilbara dust levels

Image: BHP.

BHP plans to build a first-of-its-kind wind fence in Australia at the Finucane Island off the coast of Port Hedland to mitigate dust issues in the Pilbara region, Western Australia.

The 30-metre high wind fence will be designed especially for the Pilbara’s unique and often extreme weather conditions and will be established on the western side of BHP’s Finucane Island port operations.

It will feature mesh panels designed to reduce wind speeds and shield the stockyard, reducing the likelihood of dust lift off.

As winds reach a certain speed limit, the mesh curtain will open, allowing air to flow through the fence and BHP to build on existing dust control measures as the company pushes production out to 290 million tonnes per annum of iron ore.

BHP Port general manager Nilson Davila said the proposed wind fence was part of the company’s Pilbara air quality program.

“We recognise we have a shared responsibility to address dust issues at Port Hedland,” Davila said.

“The wind fence will be constructed using global best dust practice management and air quality control technology.

“This planned investment demonstrates our commitment to improve air quality in the area and contribute to the revitalisation of the West End.”

The wind fence project is subject to internal and state government approvals.

The announcement comes after the Western Australian Department of Water and Environmental Regulation (DWER) stated that it would review two of BHP’s mining licenses in the Pilbara region after detecting dusts with higher levels of PM10 dust in Newman.

PM10 dust particles, which are small enough to be inhaled through the mouth and nose, can cause stinging eyes, a cough or more severe symptoms for people who live with heart or lung conditions.

BHP has stressed that the air quality report confirmed the levels do not represent a risk to public health within the Newman community but is working with DWER as it initiates the review.

“We are committed to ensuring our contribution to dust in town (in Newman) is as low as practicable,” BHP Newman operations general manager Marie Bourgoin said.

“Air quality is complex and the majority of elevated dust events occur in conjunction with specific meteorological conditions.

“BHP has worked collaboratively across industry, government and community for many years to address dust management in the Pilbara.”

DWER, which is working with BHP to find further appropriate solutions, expects the review to be completed by mid-2021.

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